Feeding a baby is about much more than getting food into their body – follow some simple guidelines and make the most of it!

Once a baby is 9 months old, the first food stage of life – that of introducing a child to the world of flavours, textures and taste – should be nothing new anymore. A baby should by now be familiar with many different tastes and smells and is more ready to move on to the next step in the phase – that of touch and more new textures as well as to move toward the developmental area of ‘I try to’ or ‘I want to do’.

At the age of about 9 months – this could be 8 ½ months for some and older than 9 months for others -babies are likely to be ready to do a little more by themselves. This is an important phase. Instead of a meal only being of nutritional value, each meal now becomes an opportunity to teach a child good eating habits. It is also an opportunity to hone baby’s skills and development. Food is vital to help baby learn to use his/her hands, fingers, lips, mouth etc.

The next stages of nutritional development, that of more textured food and self-feeding and taking fluid from a cup, will depend on what the baby is ready for rather than what the mother wants the baby to be able to do. Some babies will be ready a little earlier and others a little later.

When a baby starts to use his or her little fingers as pincers to pick up small objects, this is the sign for mothers that a baby is ready for a change and may no longer be entirely happy with smooth mash and will increasingly want to be involved in the feeding process themselves.

This feeding stage may be challenging and emotions often run high. Mothers may be worried that their baby is not getting enough nourishment and the baby may be more interested in making a mess than eating, which can be upsetting particularly if caretakers are exhausted and tired of cleaning up…

Try to be prepared for the mess and the long time it often takes for a baby to eat. Spread a plastic sheet under the baby’s stool and put an old T-shirt on the baby and oneself during feeding times. White is a good idea – it can be bleached! Dogs can be a great help here, so allow them to be around at baby mealtimes as they might be in for a feast.

Do not allow eating and food to become an emotional weapon. Don’t force-feed. Children enjoy the attention they get from their parents and they quickly learn that refusing to eat is one way of getting it.

Need more info?

Subscribers to bettereat.net may access the TIPS AND TOOLS section that include a guide on food preparation for babies age 9-12 months as well as a meal planner and menu examples.